A disgraceful campaign to hide the truth about foreign workers
James Slack, Home Affairs
Last updated at 4:53 PM on 12th February 2009
Labour MPs are raging at the independent Office of National Statistics for having the temerity to reveal some uncomfortable truths about foreign workers.
In a sober release, which made no political comment whatsoever, the
OFFICE OF NATIONAL STATISTICS
yesterday pointed out the total number of non-UK born workers increased by 214,000 - to 3.8 million - in the year to December.
At the same time the number of UK-born workers in employment fell by 278,000 to 25.6 million, as the country slid into recession.
Wildcat strikes: Demonstrations outside Staythorpe Power Station, in Nottinghamshire. Unite and the GMB claimed that skilled UK workers were being denied the chance to apply for work on contracts
But, instead of choosing to have an open and honest debate on the figures -and confront the reality that, sooner rather than later, Gordon Brown is going to have to deliver on his hollow promise of 'British jobs for British workers - Labour resorted to the worst kind of bullying.
The ONS, in unattributed briefings, was accused in highly emotive and utterly unacceptable language of 'inflaming' the row over foreign workers, which began when UK staff were excluded from a lucrative contract at the Total oil refinery in Lindsey.
Whitehall sources told The Times that ministers were 'fizzing' with anger, accusing the ONS of a political act designed to embarrass Mr Brown.
Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, judged the issue sufficiently serious to raise with Mr Brown in Parliament this morning.
Mr Vaz warned: 'The danger is that such information could be misconstrued or misused by those who do not support the view that Britain should be a diverse and multicultural society.'
How preposterous. They are facts, pure and simple. They should not be suppressed in order for the Government or the Labour Party to be spared embarrassment, and to suggest otherwise is a nonsense.
The row Labour is trying to stir up is clearly designed to intimidate the ONS, in order that it does not repeat its 'crime' and begin publishing regular updates on how the UK workforce is faring, compared to migrant workers.
As the country slides deeper into recession, that could be very uncomfortable for the Government (not least because it now has the 'British workers' millstone hanging around its neck). So Ministers want to keep the ONS quiet.
But these honest statisticians should not back down. For years, they have seen their work massaged and cynically spun by Ministers.
Only two months ago it emerged that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had manipulated knife crime figures in order to give the impression they were finally getting to grips with the problem.
The UK Statistics Authority said the premature release of the figures had flouted official guidelines in 10 different ways. Ministers were accused of making 'unsubstantiated' claims and 'selective' comparisons, and drawing 'inappropriate' conclusions.
It followed a similar rebuke for attempting to hijack a briefing on immigration statistics, handing out spun press releases at a supposedly non-political briefing by ONS officials.
Now, aware that they can no longer get away with spinning everything the ONS produces, the tactic is to stop it releasing figures the Government does not like altogether.
It is typical of Labour that it should seek to shoot the messenger, rather than deal with the problem. But it is time the party's MPs stopped their whining and games, and turned their attention to the real villain in all of this.
That is the Prime Minister, and his betrayal of his 2007 promise to put then jobs of British workers first.